ABOUT THIS BOOK
Americans have long been suspicious of experts and elites. This new history explains why so many have believed that science has the power to corrupt American culture.
Americans today are often skeptical of scientific authority. Many conservatives dismiss climate change and Darwinism as liberal fictions, arguing that “tenured radicals” have coopted the sciences and other disciplines. Some progressives, especially in the universities, worry that science’s celebration of objectivity and neutrality masks its attachment to Eurocentric and patriarchal values. As we grapple with the implications of climate change and revolutions in fields from biotechnology to robotics to computing, it is crucial to understand how scientific authority functions—and where it has run up against political and cultural barriers.
Science under Fire reconstructs a century of battles over the cultural implications of science in the United States. Andrew Jewett reveals a persistent current of criticism which maintains that scientists have injected faulty social philosophies into the nation’s bloodstream under the cover of neutrality. This charge of corruption has taken many forms and appeared among critics with a wide range of social, political, and theological views, but common to all is the argument that an ideologically compromised science has produced an array of social ills. Jewett shows that this suspicion of science has been a major force in American politics and culture by tracking its development, varied expressions, and potent consequences since the 1920s.
Looking at today’s battles over science, Jewett argues that citizens and leaders must steer a course between, on the one hand, the naïve image of science as a pristine, value-neutral form of knowledge, and, on the other, the assumption that scientists’ claims are merely ideologies masquerading as truths.
Erudite and truly original. Jewett explains why so many cultural leaders came to deplore the increasing incursions of science into the realm of values, especially after World War II. A pioneering book.
-- Ronald L. Numbers, author of The Creationists
Jewett has thoroughly scoured the wide field of American intellectual discourse to find the misgivings, fears, and doubts aroused by the growth and influence of science. Science under Fire is strikingly relevant to pressing present-day concerns. I know of nothing else quite like it.
-- Howard Brick, author of Transcending Capitalism
The continued politicization of science is rooted in the discomfort that many still feel about the banishment of ethics, humanistic values, and religion from much of public policy. Jewett’s book reminds us that this tension has a long history and that we should remain attentive to what is gained and lost as science continues to dominate how we understand the world and our place in it.
-- Christopher J. Phillips Science
Tackles the deep and persistent American intellectual tradition we might call Science-hesitant…It takes them seriously, arguing their vision was no less ‘modern’ for ranking Science lower than other human values, such as religious faith…A sweeping tour of a vast array of intellectual trends…The challenges to the authority of Science in this book are less episodes in the history of American science than episodes in the history of American religion, and readers drawn to those questions will find much to interest them here.
-- Michael D. Gordin Los Angeles Review of Books
An exceptionally well-written, detail-rich treatment of anti-science attitudes in the United States over the past century…Jewett reveals that the sprawling, wheeling sweep of his historical study is the argument: there is no single or stable ideology of anti-science…[He] starts and ends by talking about climate denialism, anti-vax, and COVID lockdown skepticism.
-- Donovan O. Schaefer Isis
The anti-science crowd ridiculed mask-wearers as sheep mindlessly following the herd. Armed crowds gathered at the homes of public-health officials across the country and hounded them from their jobs…As Andrew Jewett makes clear…the scientific enterprise in America has long drawn public hostility…Follows nearly a century of critiques of scientific cultural authority, from the 1920s to roughly the present…Given the moment we are in, Science under Fire seems particularly well timed, and it ought to be instructive.
-- David Steigerwald Origins
Deeply researched and thoughtful…The tensions he describes are entirely familiar, but they take on a fresh appearance with the historical backdrop he provides, and his nuanced portrait of the positions of the key protagonists produces a welcome respect for the complexity of ongoing intellectual and political controversies…Jewett concludes with a plea to approach science more matter-of-factly.
-- John Casterline Population and Development Review
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction: Science as a Cultural Threat
1. Mental Modernization
2. Resisting the Modern
3. Science and the State
4. Social Engineering
5. Modernity and Scientism
6. The Humanistic Opposition
7. A New Right
9. A New Left
10. Skepticism Instantiated
11. Science as Culture
Conclusion: Humanizing Science